I recall a quote I saw floating around Pinterest that was something to the effect of:
Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “It’s not a priority.
The idea was to re-frame why some things get pushed to the bottom of the list. Laundry not done? “It’s not a priority.” Probably true. Probably I prioritized many, many things above laundry.
But what I’m facing now is truly a version of “I don’t have time.”
I cannot replace anything in my day with “It’s not a priority” and find that I can push it to the back burner. Unfortunately, solving for x in this equation means that writing is the sacrifice in the fight against time. Writing is my therapy, my outlet, my energy and my goals — but it is not my livelihood, or a requirement of parenting, or a viable tradeoff for sleep.
This week, for example, what could I give up in exchange for writing? My paying job has substantial demands on my brainpower and skill set right now, the timing of which is outside of my control. I have three kids going in opposite directions during the day — camp and day care- that involve lengthy drop off and pickup routines (if only writing while driving were possible…) I am working out the details of some major home renovations and while the time and attention involved are stressful, we need to move forward in order to alleviate other burdens in our lives. My husband has been struggling with anxiety for the past few months and while he is receiving help in the form of therapy and medication, additional responsibilities are falling to me so that he can focus on his mental health. I have an evening meeting of my support group for bereaved parents and a meeting with my own individual therapist — both necessary for my own mental health. And I have a haircut scheduled for Friday afternoon, with the last one being far too long ago.
Not to mention all of the recurring household tasks, like paying bills, aforementioned laundry, yard work, meals, etc.
I sneak in writing, usually in the morning while I feed my baby daughter breakfast, before anyone else in the house wakes. She munches on Cheerios and fruit while I collect my writing thoughts. Sometimes, bone-tired though I am, I will do some additional writing in the evening after all kids are tucked in. This is considerably less productive, as my brain cells are usually fried by that point.
Somehow, in the middle of all of this, I set a goal for myself for the month of July. I have wanted to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo for awhile, and I thought “I can do this.” I even set the bar low, with a goal of only writing a little bit each day toward a larger writing project I have. Just a tiny bit — I didn’t even commit to a word count or a number of hours, but rather only to forming the habit of fitting more writing into my day.
Well it is Day 11 in July and I have done this “extra” writing all of two days.
I was rolling those words around in my head “it’s not a priority, it’s not a priority” as I tried to explain my shortcoming. However, that’s not true: writing is a priority. But it is amidst other responsibilities I have to work and my family that aren’t optional.
I spent a bit of time every evening beating myself up for not writing. If I were to just stay awake later… (as if that would be productive writing) or if I had just worked faster (can’t predict when there are new fires to put out…)
Finally today, on Day 11, I cut myself a break. I do write. I have a near-daily writing habit that has been ongoing for years, and I have maintained throughout working, family, and other demands. That’s nothing to sneeze at. I was feeling guilty over not making the time, but I cannot add more hours to the day and there is not anything else I can cut out right now. Much as I would love to write instead of do laundry…
Perhaps trying to add another writing project at this point in my life is not realistic — because I cannot give it the attention it deserves among the other responsibilities and commitments I have. My life will not always be like this. There will come a time when the other outside demands are fewer. And at that time I can say “Yes. Now writing.”
To read the writing that I do about pregnancy loss and grief, you can head over to my blog, Grieving Out Loud.